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Bryan Bedell's Match Preview

Graphic Novella

As your “Ref” -- a hairy ogre in a halfassed referee outfit barely capable of flipping a coin elegantly, let alone acting or breakdancing -- I’ve been embarrassing myself on the streets of Chicago for two years now. I do it all for you, the fans. Today, as a reward, I get to nitpick two amazing artistes working under impossible conditions for our entertainment. On the surface, today's competitors don't have much in common, at least stylistically. Kevin Dart is a Californian illustrator with a '60s pulp fiction/spy novel vintage style mostly centered around imaginary hero Yuki 7. Tom Muller is a Belgian in London, a designer's designer with a versatile range, a straight-outta Basel sensibility for clean type, and a diverse portfolio almost completely devoid of imaginary Japanese spies. In this commentator's experience, the bigger the style difference between the two competitors, the better the match.

Digging deeper, similarities start to appear. Both are skinny 80s-band-looking dudes, Dart probably just came from an Echo and the Bunnymen show, and Muller would fit nicely into an Anton Corbijn photo of Depeche Mode. Both like orange (Muller, Dart) an awful lot (as do I). Most importantly, they seem to share a lot of the same sensibilities: attention to detail, a solid knowledge of print design history, and real vintage (as opposed to "retro") charm. Moreover, both appear to be serious comic-book nerds, and I'll be surprised if this match doesn't end up having a bit of a graphic-novel feel to it.

A pronounciation note: I asked Tom if "Muller" was "MUHL-er," "MYOOL-er," or "MOOL-er," he's confirmed it's the first, with the short "u." I didn't ask Kevin how his name is pronounced, because it should clearly be pronounced with a silent apostrophe, as in "Objet d'Art."

A Twitter note: Either you are all some damn-good-looking people, or you just found some ridiculously flattering photos for your Twitter avatars. Give yourselves a hand, you beautiful Layer Tennis fans! Now be nice, or we'll put you in a qualifier to see if you can do better.

A musical note: As is "Ref" custom, I will provide a "soundtrack" for each volley. This task was made 50% easier by Kevin Dart, who chose his own soundtrack for his volleys in advance. It is my sincere hope that Muller will do the same, because he listens to something called "electro / laserbass / dubstep and grime." I'm almost 40 years old and don't know what any of that means, I'm still under the impression that Sebadoh is "fresh."

With all that out of the way, let's get this party started. I'm having a hard time picturing this match being anything less than awesome.

Bryan Bedell of Coudal Partners serves as Layer Tennis' "Ref," and coordinates qualifying matches. In his spare time, and often on Coudal time, he writes his motorscooter blog, 2strokebuzz. He will more likely than not find some excuse to bring up scooters in today's commentary, it's a curse.

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